Food & health is one of the many sectors that are being increasingly digitalized in every imaginable aspect. And it’s not just the coronavirus crisis that has gotten people thinking about the topic. The demand for a healthy lifestyle, easie...
Food & health is one of the many sectors that are being increasingly digitalized in every imaginable aspect. And it’s not just the coronavirus crisis that has gotten people thinking about the topic. The demand for a healthy lifestyle, easier exchange of their own health data, and healthcare reforms are paving the way for digital solutions that are already supporting many people in their everyday lives.
Trend: using your smartphone to optimize your health
Your smartphone pings to clearly tell you that you’ve only had 0.5 liters of fluids today and it’s time to drink a glass of water. Apps designed to optimize our physical and mental wellbeing have really boomed in recent years. Whether fasting timers, guided meditation sessions, or pedometers – many people are letting their smartphone help them personally get a handle on their food and health situation. It’s easy to see why:
You always have your smartphone on you.
Many apps let you conveniently set reminders.
Data on relevant bodily functions is recorded and analyzed, and users can monitor changes and progress at all times to keep them motivated.
With the help of digital tools, users can keep tabs on their current state and can easily and personally do something good for themselves and their body.
However, digital gadgets aren’t just being used in the private sphere. Doctors and health insurance companies are offering apps for patients to arrange appointments, have video chats with specialists, or get health information from the comfort of their mobile devices.
eHealth: healthcare is becoming paperless
Ever since it enacted its eHealth Act in 2015, the German government has been promoting the use of modern information and communications technologies in healthcare. This initiative was driven forward by the “The Act to Improve Healthcare Provision through Digitalization and Innovation”, which came into force in 2019 with the aim of fostering digital expansion and ensuring a healthcare provision network.
Among other things, the following aspects were specified in the act:
Patients can have health apps or medication prescribed by their doctors. Let’s take psychotherapy apps as an example: people often have to wait up to six months for an appointment with a psychotherapist, but online psychological courses via an app provide immediate help, for example in the case of burnout, depression, or anxiety.
Health data is to be stored in an electronic patient record (ePA) that can be used by both patients and doctors.
Video consultations should become routine, and patients should therefore be able to access them more easily in the future.
Especially in light of the coronavirus crisis and the resulting lockdown and social distancing restrictions, it has become all the more apparent how important easy-to-use digital services and a networked healthcare system are.
Faster and more targeted care thanks to AI and big data
With digitalization gaining ground in hospitals, university clinics, and doctor’s offices, large amounts of data are being collected automatically. Institutions can also share information with one another more easily to help treat patients.
For example, the use of new technologies in cancer research generates datasets that can be combined with the clinical data of individual patients (diagnosis, first-line therapy, age, etc.). These give specialists new insights that can open up targeted treatment options and reduce risks. When it comes to detecting complex issues, such as identifying a tumor type, AI helps find patterns in data that would otherwise only be possible by means of extensive studies.
All that makes treating patients more targeted and personalized. For instance, chemotherapy can be effective for some patients, while others with the same diagnosis see no improvement or experience severe side effects. More precise data can reveal why that is and how to ensure that therapies do not produce side effects or prove ineffective.
Digital health literacy and patient autonomy are essential
For both doctors and patients to benefit from digital solutions, they need to be thoroughly clued in on the matter. More and more people are going online for medical information, but the wealth of resources available makes it difficult to navigate the healthcare system. The German government, for its part, offers an eHealth solution in the form of a national health portal where patients can find easy-to-understand information on health topics, symptoms, treatment options, and everything to do with food & health.
The aim of any healthcare system is to provide comprehensive medical care to citizens and improving preventive services so that people are less reliant on doctors and nurses. Digital health offers enormous opportunities in this respect.
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